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DPChallenge Forums >> General Discussion >> Snoopin' on the Snoopers
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08/06/2005 02:34:48 PM · #1
Hello! I know this isn't photography-related, but perhaps some of you tech gurus could help out and other folks could benefit from this.

Sometimes I go to Starbucks with my laptop and get on the internet through the wireless access. I'm a a bit nervous and wary though, what with hackers possibly lurking around. I have "Protect my computer and netwok by limiting or preventing access to this computer from the Internet" checked. Is this enough? Just to put my mind to ease, I'd like a program that watches/alerts for any attempts to snoop on/connect to my laptop. Yes, I may be paranoid, but I figure it's better to be safe than sorry.

If you can recommend any software that does what I mentioned, that would be great. It doesn't matter if it's freeware, shareware, or commercial - just as long as it does the job.

Thanks!

--T.C.
08/06/2005 02:39:19 PM · #2
No computer should be on the Internet without (at least) the following free programs installed:

-ZoneLabs ZoneAlarm
-SpyBot
-LavaSoft Adaware

You also need some virus protection.
08/06/2005 04:22:54 PM · #3
Thanks, aboutimage! I have Ad-Aware/Ad-Watch on my laptop. It alerts me of pop-ups, ad wares, spywares, etc. and is a pretty good software. If I remember right, SpyBot does the similar thing. Although I want a program that specifically warns me of any attempts at connecting to my laptop. Does ZoneAlarm do that by any chance?
08/06/2005 05:26:01 PM · #4
Originally posted by TabbyCat:

Thanks, aboutimage! I have Ad-Aware/Ad-Watch on my laptop. It alerts me of pop-ups, ad wares, spywares, etc. and is a pretty good software. If I remember right, SpyBot does the similar thing. Although I want a program that specifically warns me of any attempts at connecting to my laptop. Does ZoneAlarm do that by any chance?


Just my field to answer... Hmmm.. lets see..

First you must remember that no computer will be 'fully' protected from just using any one or even a combination of software. The only way to protect a computer 'fully' you must NOT connect it to any community (internet).
But then now you want to access internet as it's the happening place to be... so what do you do. As ABOUTIMAGE suggested use the software (inclusing Zonealarm) and also if you have Xp then the windows firewall (configure from control panels).

Now when you load zonealarm please load it before any toher virus protection software / spybot / etc.. This is because zonealarm gets to capture all services running in a 'clean' state.

When run first time run an exhaustive scan to find any bots/spyware/etc. After this every time you load a new software / any malware is trying to be loaded on your PC zonealarm will ping a message to you (with sugessions). At this time you need to decide (if you are not sure read more about the program) if you need to allow that program to be loaded / access your pc or not. A common threat on the PC's is from enabling cookies/ using programs like chat programs / ftp programs (or any other cleartext programs).
You also need to be aware of which sites you want to visit as many sites when accessed will try to load 'things' to your machine. If you want a freeware try to download it from reputed sites and if possible try and avoid any too good to be true software / sites.

If you need any more specific help feel free to ask.
08/06/2005 05:26:02 PM · #5
Originally posted by TabbyCat:

Thanks, aboutimage! I have Ad-Aware/Ad-Watch on my laptop. It alerts me of pop-ups, ad wares, spywares, etc. and is a pretty good software. If I remember right, SpyBot does the similar thing. Although I want a program that specifically warns me of any attempts at connecting to my laptop. Does ZoneAlarm do that by any chance?


Yes, ZoneAlarm is a personal firewall. Sygate is another free personal firewall.

If you want to pay for protection, I'd get Norton Internet Security suite. It has Anti-virus, firewall, ad-ware protection, etc all in one.
08/07/2005 04:24:51 AM · #6
asitv and cbeller: Great information and suggestions! Especially asitv. I'll look further into them. Thanks, guys. :-)
08/07/2005 04:34:37 AM · #7
If you want to monitor your connections get AATools. Shareware. You get some free time and then pay if you like it. However, it's kind of pricey.
08/07/2005 05:22:35 AM · #8
Wow, looks like a fancy program. Probably way over my head but looks interesting nonetheless. I'll explore it more. Thanks, lepidus!
08/07/2005 08:47:20 AM · #9
TabbyCat,

While all these suggestions are great for ensuring that no one connects to your laptop, it's worth noting that none of this will stop someone from snooping on your network connection. This is because wireless Internet is a radio technology, and like any radio-frequency (RF) broadcast, the signal can be received by anyone in range of your computer who has the proper equipment. If you are connected to an unsecured wireless network such as a public access point or hot-spot, anyone in range could listen to the transmissions to and from your computer.

Secure connections (those with the padlock icon at the bottom of your browser and https at the beginning of the URL), are encrypted when they leave your computer, so you need not worry about someone snooping on those. It's only non-secure connections (no padlock and http at the beginning of the URL) where you have the issue. In most cases, the issue exists with sendin gand receiving email as well.

For me, being aware of the issue is enough, but if you use public hotspots frequently and want an extra level of protection, you might consider a service like Anonymizer. Anonymizer provides, on a subscription basis, an encrypted connection between your computer and their servers on the Internet. This eliminates the ability for someone to gain anything useful by snooping on your wireless Internet connection. There are two levels of service available: anonymous surfing (protects your web browser but not your email client) for $30/year, or secure tunnelling (protects all connections to/from your computer, including email and IM) for $100/year.

For most people, this is probably a bit of overkill, but it is important to be aware of the issue.

-Terry
08/08/2005 12:58:17 PM · #10
Hello, ClubJuggle! Thanks for posting. Yep, I'm aware that no laptop is ever safe especially when connected to a public access point. I hadn't thought of the padlock icon thing where outbound connections are encrypted in this manner, so that's a reassuring reminder.

Incidentally, I do use Anonymizer (the $30/year plan). Unfortuately, it doesn't work with some websites such as Yahoo. And sometimes it's sluggish since whatever I receive on the website has to go through Anonymizer's server first. Anonymizer is a nice layer of protection, though! You're right, it's probably an overkill but with identity thieves and hackers all around us, it's worth to be super careful.

To those who are watching this thread: I got ZoneAlarm and it's great! Highly recommended. Oh yes, a suggestion of my own in protecting yourself online: Change your passwords often!

--T.C.
08/09/2005 12:50:27 AM · #11
You may want to check out some of the guides available here. If you're running Windows XP the document Guide to Securing Microsoft Windows XP is probably a good starting point. The documents linked to above were written by the National Security Agency (NSA), which is the branch of the US government which specializes in cryptology.
08/09/2005 01:20:51 AM · #12
I was going to post what ClubJuggle said. Anything wireless can be snooped. Some people keep separate accounts for secure emails. I have a non-free email account in canada that I use for secure transmissions. I use Yahoo for talking to my friends. Even if someone hacked my yahoo account, there is nothing sensitive there, so I care not.

Hackers sniffing your wireless signal are different from basic internet security. I use Avast which is totally free for basic consumers. I haven't had any incursions on my computer since loading it. I picked up 3 trojans and a nasty little virus while using the complimentary copy of Nortion Antivirus (which is the full paid version btw) in the first 3 months of owning this computer. Norton AV also caused conflicts with Service Pack 2 which I use because of its benefits to Tablet PC's. My boot time slowed from 30 seconds to over 2 minutes with Norton AV. I am quite selective in the websites I visit, so would consider myself a low-risk web user.

That having been said, Full Version Norton AV was able to beat down win.pinfi that got on my portable hard drive courtesy of a friend. The virus was over 1 year old at the time though.

Another thing to be cautious of is bluetooth. 802.11 encryption protocols are pretty decent to keep out the average snooper, but if your computer has bluetooth open (phones and pda's included here), there may be certain doors left WIDE open.

Finally, I will mention that I also use the Google toolbar to block pop-ups. Between Google toolbar and Avast, my system has been secure for 3 months.

Message edited by author 2005-08-09 01:23:05.
08/09/2005 03:10:58 AM · #13
Originally posted by cbeller:



If you want to pay for protection, I'd get Norton Internet Security suite. It has Anti-virus, firewall, ad-ware protection, etc all in one.


Wrong. I purchased Norton's ISS 2005 and had to use Webroot's Spy Sweeper on top of it.
08/09/2005 07:38:13 AM · #14
Yes there are products out there that protect your Laptop etc, but you have to remember that anything that is available commercially is not 100% secure. Yes they are adequate for most of us for our use but all the products that come onto the market are only there becuase organisations like NSA, GCHQ etc can read them!

Dont forget ....someone is always watching, listening....

:-)


08/09/2005 08:33:38 AM · #15
Originally posted by nsbca7:

Originally posted by cbeller:



If you want to pay for protection, I'd get Norton Internet Security suite. It has Anti-virus, firewall, ad-ware protection, etc all in one.


Wrong. I purchased Norton's ISS 2005 and had to use Webroot's Spy Sweeper on top of it.


Spysweeper does nothing for hacking security, it's for adware/spyware. And for the record, no one product will clean or protect you from all spyware.
08/09/2005 11:14:23 AM · #16
Tabby

Being a long time user of ZoneAlarm I can highly recommend it!

The new suite package they have handles spyware, anti virus, email, instant messenger, personal information, and advanced firewall protection. It is nice to be able to use just the one software package.

I renew my license with them every year for about $20-$25.00

Originally posted by TabbyCat:

Hello, ClubJuggle! Thanks for posting. Yep, I'm aware that no laptop is ever safe especially when connected to a public access point. I hadn't thought of the padlock icon thing where outbound connections are encrypted in this manner, so that's a reassuring reminder.

Incidentally, I do use Anonymizer (the $30/year plan). Unfortuately, it doesn't work with some websites such as Yahoo. And sometimes it's sluggish since whatever I receive on the website has to go through Anonymizer's server first. Anonymizer is a nice layer of protection, though! You're right, it's probably an overkill but with identity thieves and hackers all around us, it's worth to be super careful.

To those who are watching this thread: I got ZoneAlarm and it's great! Highly recommended. Oh yes, a suggestion of my own in protecting yourself online: Change your passwords often!

--T.C.

08/09/2005 11:58:49 AM · #17
Keep in mind that wired networks are subject to the same kind of packet sniffing attacks as wireless networks.
08/13/2005 06:30:13 PM · #18
Hi! Wow, I didn't realize more posts were added to this thread until now. Thanks for the additional information and links, guys!

I have to repeat this... ZoneAlarm is highly recommended! I went ahead and got a license key for it. :-) Every time I start a program, ZoneAlarm pops up and gives me a choice to allow or deny the execution of the program. So if a program were to suddenly execute on its own, ZoneAlarm would alert you of it, then you'd have a chance to investigate. Very cool!

Here I am, in Starbucks, drinkin' green tea frappuccino blended creme and enjoyin' the wireless internet on my laptop with ease of mind. Hmmm, say, there's this guy on his laptop staring at me with a smirk. Uh-oh, could he be a hacker who'd just hacked into my laptop and did something to it, so he's eagerly waiting to see my reaction?

...nah, it's probably the creme on my nose. ;-)
08/13/2005 08:10:00 PM · #19
Originally posted by omnibus:

Keep in mind that wired networks are subject to the same kind of packet sniffing attacks as wireless networks.


True, but in those situations the hacker needs physical access to the network cabling. That's much harder to gain than access to the broadcast signal of an unsecured wireless network.

-Terry
08/13/2005 08:37:58 PM · #20
Originally posted by ClubJuggle:

Secure connections (those with the padlock icon at the bottom of your browser and https at the beginning of the URL), are encrypted when they leave your computer, so you need not worry about someone snooping on those.


That's right, lull them into a false sense of security ;)

You can download certain programs in a ready-to-run state that'll happily work their way through or step around https encryption using weak packets (in fact i think Ettercap will do it out of the box now), and of course wep takes a relatively short time to crack with an adequately active connection.

The fact is when you're broadcasting your data through the air, someone sufficiently determined could read it.

But you have to ask yourself - why should someone go through that sort of trouble just to read your boring emails?

Btw, imho zonealarm is nothing but a placebo. Adaware on the other hand is of great use anywhere there's that abomination of a spyware-magnet called Windows :)
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